Constitution no bar to foreign judges in war crimes court – TNA
Sumanthiran reveals tripartite GoSL, US, Tamils agreement on hybrid mechanism
By Shamindra Ferdinando
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has claimed to have reached a tripartite consensus in respect of foreign judges, defence attorneys, investigators etc., in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism to probe war crimes before the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) unanimously adopted a resolution to pave the way for inquiry.
On behalf of the TNA, its spokesperson and Jaffna District parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran has told a recent ‘Congressional Caucus for Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka’ in Washington that the government of Sri Lanka, the TNA and the US had been involved in the negotiations leading to the agreement.
The declaration was made in the presence of Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Washington Prasad Kariyawasam.
The event was moderated by Sadhanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank. The Caucus is an initiative launched by United States House Representatives Bill Johnson of Ohio and Danny Davis of Illinois, in November, 2013.
Attorney-at-law Sumanthiran stressed that the resolution was moved in Geneva following an understanding that the participation of foreigners wouldn’t be contrary to Sri Lanka’s Constitution. Declaring that he had been personally involved in the negotiations, with the United States of America also participating in that particular process, Sumanthiran said: “There were some doubts created, as to whether the Constitution of Sri Lanka would allow for foreign nationals to function as judges and we went into that question, clarified it, and said yes they can”.
Sumanthiran told the Congressional Caucus that the resolution accepted at Geneva had been negotiated and they settled for a hybrid model though they originally asked for an international inquiry.
The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) spokesperson Suren Surendiran told The Island that agreement on the text of the resolution had been reached following negotiations among what he called Core Group of members at the UNHRC, the government of Sri Lanka and representatives of Tamils. The agreement on a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the special counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers and authorized prosecutors and investigators was certainly not negotiable, Surendiran said.
In his lengthy presentation to the Congressional caucus on June 14, MP Sumanthiran discussed a range of issues, including the role of the US and India in resolution of the national issue.
Both MP Sumanthiran and Surendiran emphasised that they expected the full implementation of the UNHRC resolution.
In his brief remarks, Ambassador Kariyawasam provided an overview of the measures taken by Sri Lanka to promote its two-pronged policy of reconciliation and development since the January 2015 election of the current government and reiterated in detail, measures taken by the government to vindicate its commitment to these processes and explained the several challenges that militate against government efforts.